What is Myofunctional Therapy and Does My Child Need It?

Melanie McGriffHas your dentist or orthodontist mentioned that your child or teen might have a “tongue thrust?”

Has your child been in speech therapy for some time with little gains toward increasing ability to make new sounds/words or increase intelligibility of speech?

Does your child produce a lot of speech sounds with their tongue too far forward in their mouth?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, your child may benefit from what is known as oral motor therapy or myofunctional therapy.

What is Orofacial Myology/Myofunctional Therapy?

Orofacial Myology or Myofunctional Therapy is defined as the treatment of the orofacial musculature to improve muscle tonicity and establish correct functional capacities of the tongue, lips and jaw. Treatment is recommended so that normal growth and development can take place or progress in a stable, homeostatic environment. Of the many possible myofunctional variations, those involving the tongue and lips receive the most attention. A tongue thrust is the most common orofacial myofunctional variation.

What does Orofacial Myology/Myofunctional Therapy address?

• Tongue thrust and swallowing
• Forward resting posture of the tongue
• Short upper lip
• Open-mouth resting posture
• Motor planning for speech sounds and swallowing
• Oral muscle movement for speech sounds
• Thumb/digit sucking elimination

What is a “tongue thrust?”

A tongue thrust is a condition where the tongue becomes a prominent feature either when talking, swallowing, or eating. What is often missed in oral evaluations is the rest position of the tongue, especially the tongue tip. It is well documented in dental science that a forward rest position of the tongue tip against or between the teeth, can, over time, result in dental changes when there is a long period (4-6 hours per day) of an abnormal tongue rest position. A tongue thrust and a forward rest position of the tongue often occur together.

What are the goals for Orofacial Myology/Myofunctional Therapy?

Together with the patient, therapists cultivate an awareness of the muscles used for resting posture and swallowing and develop an individualized regular exercise and therapy program. Our goal is to strengthen and rehabilitate the tongue and facial muscles while making the new neuromuscular patterns habitual. The myofunctional clinician uses specialized exercises to establish correct functional activities of the tongue, lips, and jaw. These exercises can eliminate or greatly reduce drooling, food chewing problems, open lip resting posture, articulation disorders, and incorrect swallowing patterns.

Working alongside other professionals (i.e., orthodontists, physicians, therapists) in a team approach produces more positive oral functioning, increases the likelihood of orthodontic retention, and improves speech functioning and clarity of speech.

Who do we need to see?

Evaluation and therapy should be provided by a professional who has been specifically trained and/or certified as an Orofacial Myologist/Myofunctional therapist. If you are working with a speech pathologist, make sure they have received additional training in this specialty area. The qualifications of professionals who provide treatment for you and your family should always be checked. The International Association of Orofacial Myology, (IAOM), is a professional organization that can help identify professionals in your area who are trained and/or certified to provide this specialized treatment.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about myofunctional therapy for a child or teen, contact us for a free consultation.

Melanie McGriff, M.Ed., CCC-SLP
Orofacial Myologist/Speech Pathologist
Member of International Association of Orofacial Myology (IAOM)

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